Gear ATVs

UTV Review: Can-Am Defender HD8 XT DPS

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In a steadily growing off-road market, manufacturers are building more vehicles geared for hard work. Can-Am has many sport recreational vehicles in its fleet, but it’s the addition of the 2016 Can-Am Defender that is getting attention as the hardest working SXS for this Canadian company.

The new Defender HD8 XT gives its owner plenty of robust power with a Rotax 799cc V-Twin that has manufacturer stated 50 horsepower and 50 Ft. pounds of available torque. This power plant is coupled to Can-Am’s PRO-TORQ Transmission with the exclusive Quick Response System (QRS) that makes the transmission engagement seamless to the driver. According to Can-Am, this should also extend the life of the belt in the Defender.

On the farm, towing a fencing trailer or bales of straw to the barn is as simple as hooking to the trailer. The new Can-Am Defender will tow 2,000 pounds of cargo and it can also carry 1,000 pounds in the bed. We had an opportunity to test these weights just to see how the machine would handle the load from an available power and steering standpoint. We had assumed the steering would be a little heavy, but with the help of Can-Am’s single mode Dynamic Power Steering it was not bad at all. The weight of 1,000 lbs of deer corn in the bed gave the suspension a little workout but the external sway bar on the rear really helped stabilize the chassis roll even on off-camber trails. When hooked to the trailer, which had only 500lbs total weight, the Defender still performed well with positive stopping power as well as plenty of horsepower to pull the loaded cart along. Getting this big boy stopped did not prove to be any trouble with 220mm hydraulic disc brakes on each corner. As expected, the machine needed a bit more distance to come to a complete and safe stop when loaded but the Defender handles this quite well.


Getting around in the tough or even sensitive landscape of any hunting property or farm is made easy with an open rear differential for tight turning and turf protection. The 2×4 lockable rear gives the Defender improved 2WD traction. When it comes to deep mud or slick rocky terrain you can rely on the 4×4 open rear for more maneuverability and a 4×4 locked rear end for maximum traction.

The cab of the new Defender is built for the working class owner and hunter. First off, the steering tilts to accommodate many different rider sizes and the gauges tilt with the steering so they stay in the most optimal position for the driver. The seating is specifically tailored for entry and exit use as the front edges of the seat are cut at an angle to lesson the drag on your legs during these times. Once seated, you are persuaded to clip the net system (a simulated door to the outside world) closed in order to keep you safe from trail debris. It would seem an expensive machine such as the Defender HD8 XT model would have half doors instead of nets to complete the premium package. We hope Can-Am might work on this for future models of the Defender line. The seating is made from high-quality really thick durable vinyl for long life and the company calls this their Versa Pro seating. The name Versa Pro is in reference to the 40/20/40 bench style seating with flip up passenger seat that gives you more room in the passenger side floor for tools or your favorite hunting dog. There is a waterproof container that resides under the passenger seat that is also removable.

Speaking of storage, there is also a watertight glove box that is fitted into the top of the Defender’s dash. This box is locked into place when the top handle is lowered toward the hood of the vehicle but when raised the entire box is removable. This could make a great tackle box or toolbox should you need a small portable compartment.

For those home-based mechanics looking to service the Can-Am Defender themselves, you have plenty of room under the bed. The entire engine and transmission are located behind the cab under the large cargo bed. Simply unhook the bed lift assist shock and bed will drop securely back out of the way. This exposes not only the engine and transmission but the 10.6gallon fuel tank and radiator fill cap. The fuel tank is mounted on the right side of the Defender to keep the heat of the engine far away. On the right side just below the cargo box you will find easy access to the air filter as well.

After a quick discussion, several of us decided to get up before the rooster crowed to take a trip out to the highest point at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge. The early morning crisp temperatures were no match for the fuel injected engine in our Defender and we headed off up the trails to find some lone turkeys waking in their roost. The powerful 140 watts of headlight made the trail completely visible in the total darkness. It was still very cold but the ride and sunrise photos in our Can-Am Defender made it totally worth it. It was our experience that the cab of the Defender was really comfortable and would lend well to everyday usage. With plenty of power and a long list of available working accessories, the Can-Am Defender should make any owner happy.


Comfortable seating
Stable when loaded
Dynamic Power Steering

Nets instead of doors
Upper seat Bolstering

2015 Can-Am Defender HD8 XT Specifications:

Price as Tested: $15,599.00
Engine Type: 799cc V-Twin
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
Starting system: Electric

Drive train
Drive system: Shaft; Selectable 2×4 / 4×4; Diff-Lock; Turf Model
Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)
Suspension: (Type/Travel)
Front: Double A-arm / 10 in. (25.4 cm) travel
Rear: TTA-HD with external sway bar / 10 in. (25.4 cm) travel

Front: Maxxis Bighorn 2.0† 27 x 9 x 14 in.
Rear: Maxxis Bighorn 2.0† 27 x 11 x 14 in.

Front: Dual Hydraulic Disc
Rear: Hydraulic Disc

Wheelbase: 83 inches
Claimed dry weight: 1550lbs
Ground clearance: 11in
Length x width x height: 120 x 62 x 78
Fuel capacity: 10.6 Gal
Load Capacity
Towing capacity: 2000lbs
Payload capacity: 1500lbs
Colors: Intense Red, Pure Magnesium Metallic, Mossy Oak Break-up Country Camo Water Dipped